Process & Workflow

What is Workflow Management?

Nov 16, 2021
Post Masthead

Offering the best services or products is important for a business, but it isn’t the only area where companies compete today. A competitive position involves a business’ capabilities, which take the form of talent, resources, and processes. Therefore, companies invest in top technology and the most efficient operations to improve productivity and cut costs.

Many organizations stick to old systems and processes simply because “that’s how we’ve always done it”. However, these organizations might be missing out on some opportunities to be innovative and work smarter.

Investing in workflow management will not only allow your business to automate repetitive processes and tasks, but also reduce errors, remove bottlenecks, and increase productivity. In this article, we will dive into what workflow management is and how to implement it into your business.

What is Workflow Management?

Take a moment to think about what your workday might look like if you worked in accounts payable. You might receive invoices, check them against purchase orders, and pay the amounts due.

Every single time an invoice comes in, you follow these same steps. Putting these steps together is called a workflow.

Many people confuse workflows with processes. Although the two are very similar, they have minor differences.

A workflow is a documented and mapped set of steps that is necessary to complete a specific task.

On the other hand, a process is a group of activities that include tools, reports, and resources.

There are two types of workflows: parallel workflows and sequential workflows. Here are the main differences between the two:

  • Parallel Workflows – This type of workflow involves performing multiple tasks simultaneously.

    Here’s an example: An HR member hires a new employee and sends a request to IT to add the new team member onto specific applications and systems. The onboarding process is happening concurrently with an IT process.
  • Sequential Workflows – Unlike a parallel workflow, a sequential workflow follows the “start to finish” workflow, which means that one task must be completed first before the next one can start. This type of workflow is also known as a “rules-based” workflow, meaning that it needs conditional logic to work through a set of tasks.

    Here’s an example: A team member in the business office needs to receive a quote before approving a purchase. Then, both steps need to be completed before paying an invoice.

The Major Components of a Workflow

Workflow Management

Now that you understand what a workflow is, the different types of workflows, here are the primary components that make up a workflow: inputs, transformations, and outputs.

Here is an explanation of both:

  • Inputs – An input refers to the materials or resources required to complete a task. Looking back at our HR example, the “inputs” here could include form fill-outs requesting access to specific software, contact information for a new hire, and contracts.
  • Transformations – A transformation is an action that takes place when the input turns into an output. This could mean processing the information for the new hire, handing-off a task to another team member or department, or sending a document for a signature.
  • Outputs – An output is what an input becomes after the transformation process. This can include receiving a signature on a contract or receiving a shipment.

Each of these components can be automated with rules, objects, and triggers.

Understanding Workflow Management Systems

Workflow management systems allow an organization to control and define routine activities. The best workflow management systems make it simple and inexpensive to automate these things, even when external and internal stakeholders are involved.

Many people use business process management (BPM) and workflow management to describe the same things. However, business process management focuses more on optimizing processes as a whole. BPM is more high level, looking at a business’s overall efficiency and effectiveness.

Workflow management is only a small part of that. It focuses on clearly-defined tasks and steps that make the bigger picture a possibility.

Why Workflow Management is Important

Almost 90% of workers today feel as if they need to deal with too many repetitive and boring tasks. This can lead to frustration and lack of motivation, which decreases productivity.

In addition to increasing productivity and boosting customer satisfaction, here are some other benefits of workflow management systems:

  • Centralized hubs – Rather than relying on inaccurate or hard-to-find data or documents, workflow management helps keep everything in one place with integrations to file or asset management systems, content hubs, and other centralized locations.
  • Increased process speed, decreased costs, and improved ROI – When building and implementing workflows for tedious and repetitive tasks and work, it also speeds up the processes in which this work is done, which boosts efficiency, decreases operational costs across the board, and improves ROI.
  • Better agility and flexibility – The beauty of workflow management systems is that be built and set up in such a way that not only allows for increased collaboration among team members and cross-functional departments but also allows businesses to alter their workflows according to shifting business needs.
  • Scalability – Because workflow management systems are designed to automate certain tasks and tracts of work, they can help scale a business easily and efficiently, paving the way to growth.
  • Improved productivity – Workflow management boosts productivity. It prevents team members from switching between applications, tasks, and projects, all of which eat up valuable time and resources.

How to Incorporate Workflow Management into Your Business

Small Business Workflow Management

Implementing workflow management into your business is an important consideration, especially if you want to grow, scale, and remain competitive.

So how do you get started? First, select a workflow management tool to help. Rindle provides you with all the features you need to design, build, and manage your workflows with ease. Get started for free today.